In The Era of Sciencide
We are in a dark age for science. While millions stand to suffer from droughts and other effects from shifting climates, the executive branch in the oval office, as well as lawmakers in Congress, seek to further reduce the availability and free production of scientific research. They do so in a way that stalls any publication or research of data that might be effective in studying and analyzing these events, and more importantly their implications for all those living on Earth. While we do not yet know what the final congressional budget for 2018 will look like, It is clear by the administration’s implications that it will not bode well for those doing climate related research.
We are in the era of Sciencide. Sciencide is the stifling or elimination of factual data, evidence, or studies for political reasons. While it is important to note that both Democratic and Republican administrations in the past have turned a blind eye to climate research when it was inconvenient, the levels of defunding anticipated in key areas of climate research have sent a chill throughout communities of scientists who have been working on this kind of research for decades. The Trump administration’s plans to dismantle and stifle climate research will be a tremendous setback for the global environment, endangered and threatened species, and humans likewise.
Sciencide is not the normal, to-be-expected shift in priorities in an administration change. Sciencide is not destruction with the intention to rebuild over with something better. It is not the way Galileo’s heliocentrism made antiquated Ptolemy’s geocentrism. Rather, Sciencide is when we unquestioningly forgo the search for facts, in exchange for unsubstantiated opinions. It is is when those who are doing research are persecuted, professionally and publicly, for their resistance to yield or, worse, alter their findings to suit a more politically-focused narrative. And it is when entire government agencies are defunded beyond use, gutted of the eminent work they were established to perform. More critically, Sciencide aims to disarm communities of the tools they need to promote healthy local environments and protect their citizens, while arming corporations with the weapons they need to pollute and do so unpunished.
The Trump administration’s preliminary 2018 budget proposal confirmed the worst fears of climate scientists world-wide. The budget calls for a 31% decrease for the EPA, as well as cuts to NASA research on climate change. As we brace for what could be a catastrophic period in American scientific history, publications are starting to take notice. The Atlantic has warned that we are entering a ‘Lost generation” for scientific study. The proposed budget also cuts State Department funding, starting with the elimination of Global Climate Change Initiative, an Obama-era plan to fund climate change research.
Need for foundations such as Datarefuge.org, The Sunlight Foundation and other safeguards against the disposal of this valuable data show exactly how concerned climate scientists are by the administration’s intentions. It was understood that Secretary Pruitt’s nomination to the EPA meant a drastic refocusing of the agencies goals and priorities; however, this combined with the proposed budget cuts has lead to the resignation of major EPA staffers, most recently the head of the Office of Environmental Justice, Mustafa Ali. In his vocal departure, he mentioned the rollback in budget and staff proposed by the Trump administration, saying that it would adversely target communities that needed the protection most. The communities he was referring to were domestic locales such as Spartanburg, South Carolina, which the his department awarded $20,000 to assist cleaning up contaminated industrial sites. In Tonawanda, New York, his department gave a grant for the community to conduct ambient air monitoring. This led to the discovery that a local Coke production plant had been releasing illegal levels of benzene emissions.
It is simply not enough to be silent and allow for the destruction of scientific knowledge and advances in research from climate scientists from all over the world. In the era of Sciencide, to be silent is to be anti-science. If we are to be silent, what are we willing to accept as fact? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we solve problems if we’re not allowed to study and talk about them? There has never been a more critical tipping point than the one we face now.